Stamping Out Stigma with Elric Nielsen

Published on : 10/4/21
  • Meet Elric Nielsen, General Manager at one of our college accounts in Calgary, Alberta and a mental health champion. Elric’s Sodexo career started in 2008 as a retail manager at a university account in Alberta. Before working at Sodexo Canada, Elric had a hectic job, his hours were unusual which made it difficult to single-parent his young son. Having a Monday to Friday job was important to manage his home life and allow for work-life balance.

    He likes his current role because of its central location, in downtown Calgary. He likes the people he works with and the diversity of people he has been able to connect with. Interestingly, he attended pre-kindergarten at the same school as a child while his mother launched her career there. Could it be fate?

    Elric appreciates that Sodexo values Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which has allowed him to be involved in charitable work and many other initiatives throughout his career. In early 2021, when he first heard about the Mental Health Committee recruiting champions to participate, knew immediately he wanted to get involved.


    Elric Advocate for Mental Health

    In his personal life, Elric does volunteer work with the RCMP in Alberta. For the past five years, he has been a member of their mental health services team, two and a half years as a team lead, where he trains new members on how to become victim advocates and respond to calls with the RCMP. He wanted to bring his knowledge and experience working with people that might need some mental health assistance to Sodexo.

    In his youth, Elric had a friend with some mental health challenges, at a time when even more stigma was involved in the mental health realm. From that point on, he changed his view about mental health and his vision became more empathetic about the issue.

    “My brain is my ally; it’s always doing what I want it to do. And I feel for the folks that might not have that consistency in their mind, and recognize how difficult it must be to live life like that. On top of that, there is a stigma around the subject. That changed the way I thought about mental health.”


    His desire to help people matched with the volunteer role with the RCMP. Not just having a sympathetic or empathetic view towards people with mental health issues, but genuinely wanting to do something to assist, allowed Elric to really get involved and devote some of his time to the cause. 

    “I don’t want to have an opinion about mental health, but I want to get involved. I look for ways to assist, like with Sodexo’s mental health committee.”


    Sodexo and Mental Health

    Elric believes that Sodexo should be able to provide direction to help its employees. He learned that most people are not aware of what programs are out there to assist them and for a company to be involved and provide some direction in the mental health area, he thinks it’s a great step forward for employees' overall health.

    Sodexo’s mental health committee is working on making employees resources more robust and exploring how to best deliver them. They are evaluating the current offers and resources for employees' mental health assistance and are working on improving communication, bringing mental health discussions to the table, giving it more visibility and continuously work to stamp out stigma.

    Sodexo being a company that’s involved in providing for the physical well-being of its employees, with health and safety plans in place, it seems natural to offer robust support for mental health as well. Having someone in great physical condition, but who is not doing very well mentally, he/she may not be able to contribute with their maximum and enjoy their life to the fullest, said Elric. A person’s mental health is critical to their performance and quality of life.

    “I want to see mental health being given as much importance as physical health. I wish for it to be normalized in our culture to talk and care for mental health.”

    Over the past few years, more work has been done to reduce the stigma around mental health issues. For example, the American gymnast that has raised awareness to her own mental health during this last Tokyo Olympics. Elric left us with a reflection, If an Olympian who has trained and prepared for years to be where they are can have a moment to take care of their mental health, why can’t we?


    Learn more about Sodexo Canada’s Mental Health Crusade